Dwayne had the opportunity to interview Dr. Clay Hallmark about the importance of momentum and how we can build healthy momentum among our church and leaders and teams. Clay is the pastor of a fast-growing church in Lexington, Tennessee. Clay is one of those guys with whom it could be said that, in regards to ministry, “everything he touches turns to gold.” He just seems to find a way to be successful. As you can tell from this interview, Clay is quick to give glory and credit to God for any success he has experienced. But if you listen to him very long, you may also realize that Clay applies a lot of wisdom and common sense to how he leads his people and builds buy-in and enthusiasm. What he shares in this interview can be gold for those who listen and heed his advice.

Part of Dwayne’s interview with Clay is included in our newest e-book, How to Move a Vision Forward.

Clay:

The truth of the matter is, when you look around at churches, all around my area, all around the country today, one of the things you notice they do not have is very much momentum. Obviously in the time that we are right now with the pandemic, it’s been very difficult to create a way to sustain momentum.

Momentum, really, I think speaks of movement. It is having a starting point and having some defined outcome that you’re going to move to. It’s actually taking the organization that you’re leading, the people that you’re leading, the groups that you’re leading, and creating a process of movement from where you are to the next step, that gets you to the desired outcome.

Dwayne:

So in your mind, as a visionary, you have apparently some kind of outcome in mind before you even start. Did I understand that right?

Clay:

That’s right. The whole concept of momentum begins with prayer. You can’t have momentum without knowing where God is leading. It doesn’t matter where I want to lead. It doesn’t matter where you want to lead, Dwayne. What matters is where God wants to lead. Where does God want us to go?

So you spend that time in prayer. You determine, what direction does God want us to go in? Once you determine that direction, you can sit down and then your ideology of where God is leading causes you to think in terms of goals. It makes you think in terms of desired outcomes. Then you’ve got to think in terms of what comes next. What’s the next thing?

Now what happens, where we lose momentum is because we’re pretty good at setting goals. Sometimes we even get traction, but we can’t sustain momentum. Or when we get to our desired outcome, we don’t have a next step. We don’t have a what comes next. So it all just, we kill our own momentum so many times. So it begins with prayer though. It always begins with prayer.

Dwayne:

Why is momentum a thing? Why are we even having a conversation about it with the church? It can kind of feel unspiritual. Do we really need this element?

Clay:

I think we do, because momentum helps not only the leader stay focused and on target toward the goal through the directions that the Lord is leading the leader to lead his organization in, but in turn, it allows the organization itself to stay on focus, to not get distracted by side things, but to stay on the actual mission that God has given the church or given the organization that you’re leading.

So what momentum does, momentum then becomes the engine. It becomes that movement process, like a big train going down the track. When a train gets a full head of steam, it doesn’t matter what you put on the track in front of it. It sort of blows through barriers, one after the other, after the other.

So momentum can help overcome lots of barriers in the church. It overcomes lots of preconceived ideas. Real momentum helps overcome personal preferences. So when the momentum gets rolling, it even helps overcome those who are critics. Because the momentum is so big, and so many people get on board with what’s going on, even the critics start to question themselves, or they simply never get on board at all. They just, they go where they can control situations. What momentum does, momentum puts the control in the hands of the organization and reaching the mission, and not in the hands of a handful of people who are trying to lead their own personal preferences.

Dwayne:

You’ve got a servant heart. You pray things through. I’ve never gotten the impression you mow people over. People just seem to want to get behind what you’re doing, Clay. Is that a gift? Is such ability available for anybody, or is that just something you possess naturally?

Clay:

No. Leadership in itself, I think is something that’s not just necessarily all God-given. You’ve got to learn it.

You’ve got to get around people who know how to do these things. You need to learn from them. You need to learn to communicate like they communicate. You need to learn how to see the big picture. You got to learn how to put the pieces together. I have a simple philosophy of ministry, and it’s going to sound complicated, but it’s not. But it’s this, you’ve got to start small and you got to grow strong. Well, the problem of leaders, they all want to start big.

And if you’ve not developed or enlisted and trained the leadership to start big, you’ve not cast the vision to start big, you’ve not put the foundation in place that allows you to sustain. It’s like a deck of cards that you built a tower with. It just is going to fall. Well, if you don’t have a firm foundation under all of these things, of trained leaders and a very clear strategy, a very clear mission where you have, where you create movement, you literally create movement, that you have a starting place.

And we have this, a simple process of movement. We call it a starting place, a strengthening place, an ascending place. And we move, try to move people, from a starting place all the way through where we’re strengthening them, we’re discipling them, we’re helping them learn to be leaders. Then we’re sending them to lead and strengthen to start others. The problem is, most leaders aren’t patient. We live in an instantaneous world, where we put something in the microwave and food gets right there. We push a button and our whole pot of coffee is made. Everything is instant on the Internet. But leadership is not instant. Growing a church is not instant. There is no magic pill. There are no magic beans. There is a not a magic formula. You have to do it the way God created you to do it. You’ve got to start where you are. You’ve got to expand out from there. You start small, you grow strong. You got to have a starting place, a strengthening place, an ascending place.

You got to create that movement among people. It’s something that anybody can learn to be, because I have staff around me that did not understand this concept. Now they do, because I’ve equipped them. They taught like I taught, they think like I think, they lead their small groups like we’re leading the whole church now. So it becomes cohesive, but it’s taken five years almost get to that point. But we’re starting to see lots of results. We’re reaping great benefits. So you’ve got to go into it not looking at it as a temporary short-term thing. Momentum has got to be a long-term thing. It’s got to be a long-term vision of what it is that you’re trying to accomplish out there.

Dwayne:

You apparently communicate and exude confidence in such a way that your people feel like, “We’re actually going to get there. We’ll just keep moving and following what this pastor, and what God has put in his heart. I think we’re going to get there.” Do you believe confidence is part of what gets them started and gets them on board with your vision?

Clay:

I think so. I think so. I think once you’ve spent time in prayer and you understand what direction you need to go, you’ve got to cast vision. You’ve got to help people see how they fit and what it is that God’s trying to do. Most people that sit in the pews of the church have no idea where they fit.

They have no idea what their shape for ministry is, what their spiritual gifts are, how to use the abilities that God’s given them in ministry. You’ve got to cast the vision. You’ve got to help people understand, “Okay, here’s how you fit in this. There’s a place for everyone. There aren’t any big jobs or small jobs, they’re just jobs. They’re just work to be done. There’s ministry to be accomplished.” So you pass the vision, then you help them see where they fit. In the vision, you let them know, “Here’s where we’re going. Here are the outcomes. Here are the goals. Here’s the outcomes that we want to have, not just for the organization, but for your personal life, your kids, your grandkids, your family, your finances, your job.”

You personalize it. You see where you can personalize it, and then you got to help them get wins, Dwayne. That’s the key. You’ve got to put victories under people’s belts. You’ve got to help them see, as you’re reaching the small incremental goals, how they were involved in it, how they added to the process. You’ve got to celebrate that. You’ve got to encourage that. You’ve got to be, move them to the next level.

So you’ve got to give people wins. You’ve got to celebrate those wins. When people start seeing success and people start feeling successful and they feel like, “My life is significant. I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I see a difference being made around me,” that creates momentum. Then all of a sudden, even the skeptics want a part of it.

Dwayne:

A great example of something you did recently with your people is our church-wide campaign, WorshipLife. You took our materials and gave life to it. God used you to do that, to breath life into it, and it became something more than just text on paper. The campaign had a tremendous impact on your church.

I want to ask you, what were some things that helped start that? Let me give you an example of why I believe it was so obviously effective. You had us come in to help kick it off. I appreciated that. I loved that. As soon as we walked through the doors, people started walking up to us, asking, “Do you have any more books?” They were so excited. It was growing. Even after the event had officially started, people were still getting on board and wanting to be involved. How in the world did you do that?

Clay:

Well, what we did, we didn’t just decide in two weeks before this thing started, that we’re going to do this.

I was able to see all the materials and do all those types of things, and I was able to spend some time with it myself. Again, it all starts with prayer. “God, where do you want us to be this next year? How do you want us to lead? God, give us direction.”

So I sat down months in advance with my entire leadership team, my church staff, my leadership team. I presented that to them. I said, “Guys, here’s something that the Next Level of Worship has done, my friend, Dwayne Moore has done. This is something we need. This speaks to people’s lives, right where they are, daily worship before God. If we can get people before God in daily worship, He will transform them. In turn, it’ll transform our church. It’ll transform our community, transform our Sunday School. It’s just all encompassing.” I said, “This is just something that we need. I want you to look through this. I want you to pray through this. Let’s try to figure out, how does this fit what we’re doing and our mission statement?” And it does. It fits us perfectly.

So we got back together. We talked about, “Okay, if we’re doing this, if we’re going to use this, we’ve already got some things planned, how can we parlay what we’re doing into this?” Again, momentum. “We’re building momentum. This is going to be an even greater momentum builder. So how do we do that?” Well, we knew we had to have small group leaders involved, because the thing that made this material so great wasn’t Sunday sermons. It was small group Sunday School classes.

Or whatever people call them out there, life groups or whatever. We still call it Sunday School. The first thing I did then, was that I got together all of my Sunday School leadership, and I cast the vision for them. “Guys, this can change people’s lives in your Sunday School class, in your life, in your family, your kids, your grandkids. This is something we’re going to do. Here’s what the material’s going to like. It’s going to come with DVD or video-driven, online. Here’s how we’re going to provide it to you. Here’s how we’re going to give it to you. I want you to pray about this. I want you to seek God on this. I want you to know that when we cast this, you got to be all the way in. If you’re going to lead, we need you to lead all in.”

We had you come in first. And we brought in all of our leaders on Saturday. We came in, all the Sunday School leadership, children leadership, student ministry leadership, worship leadership, all of my deacons and their families. We filled the building up. And then we let you cast the vision of what it would be. At that point, we’d already been praying through the process. We’d been giving the material out. We’d been training the leaders on how to use material. We’d been talking about how to use it in small groups. The sermons were developed. So by the time it launched, momentum had already started.

When I stood up in front of my leaders, I said, “Guys, this is what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. And the church is going to offset the cost, and you’re going to have an investment in it, your people are going to have an investment in it, because it’ll make a difference. They will participate and use this material if they’ve got some kind of an investment in it. If give it to them for free, probably not.” All right? And I said, “So we’re going to get this for all of you in advance. Everybody’s going to have an investment in it.”

And then, when we were able to get all the other people together, the teachers then went to their class weeks in advance and said, “Guys, this stuff, we’re fixed to do church-wide. Everybody. Everybody needs this because, I’ve already been looking through it. Here’s what it says. Here’s what it’s going to do. We’re going to start on such and such Sunday. Here’s how we’re going to launch. Here’s what it’s going to look like. And when we get done with this, these are the things we want to see happen. Now let’s talk about what we will see happen in our class.”

So by the time we ever got to the first Sunday, momentum was created. Everybody was already lined up, ready to purchase their materials. The truth of the matter is, to be honest with you, we undershot it. We undershot it. I thought we had enough that we would have a box leftover of material. We undershot it by about 150 books.

When you came in, you came in and led on a Sunday, after doing the thing on Saturday. You led on Sunday. And wow, wow, wow. What an amazing day, how it really laid the foundation of what we were doing, and we cast the vision, you did and I did, of what it was going to look like in the coming weeks.

There’s something magical, something incredible, something that you can’t put your fingers on, it’s an intangible, that when the church is praying every day and doing daily devotions, when the church is all focused on the same material, when you’re reinforcing it or introducing next week’s material with a sermon, and then they’re following up with small group Sunday School and daily devotions and discussion, and they’re watching, then watching you teach, the momentum of the focus of everybody being dialed in to the same thing, and especially when it came to their personal worship of God, it was transformational in peoples’ lives. They couldn’t hide if they wanted to. They started bringing their friends and said, “You want to be a part of this. You don’t want to miss this.” We had people get saved. One of our outcomes and goals was to grow Sunday School through this, using all the material.

If you remember, we wound up starting two new Sunday School classes and a young adult department. At the end of this, a couple of weeks after we had, the official thing had ended, because we had grown Sunday School. Which meant, the buy-in of the people, they invited their friends and they invited their friends and they invited their friends, and it grew enough that our Sunday School, some of those classes peaked, and we had to create new classes.

Dwayne:

Your people are bought into a momentum that was much larger than just one event. It was never just about an event for you. To build all your hopes on one thing, that’s not wise. The bigger vision is, what has God called us to do in this community, and what are we here for? And you saw our WorshipLife campaign as a tool to help that, correct?

Clay:

That’s right. It became a new tool in our tool chest of evangelism and missions.

Dwayne:

Right, and it was easier to start and build that campaign because something else had already been started in the hearts of your people.

Clay:

Yes, we started with other things out here, and we did these things intentionally to prepare the way and to fallow the ground and sow the seeds, so that when we got the worship life, we already knew what we… You had to do this in order to get to the outcomes out here. When the WorshipLife material ended, the momentum we created built toward other things. It built toward mission trips. It built toward everybody having daily devotion and spending time with God. It built toward the new, starting the new Sunday School classes. It led into the holidays, where we had a greater opportunity to reach people that now came during the holidays, more than any other time. So there were other outcomes that were out there. But it didn’t start right before the event itself. There were other things that went into that, that led into it.

Dwayne:

I want to ask you just a couple more questions. I won’t keep you much longer. But just a few minutes on, what are some momentum killers? I guess we ought to be able to interpret what you’ve said and figure them out for ourself. But you might have a couple in mind. Maybe there’s just no-nos, “You just don’t do this, if you want to build momentum.”

Clay:

Well, first of all, you can’t build momentum with your own plan. God’s not the least bit interested in what you want to do. He’s only interested in blessing what He wants to do. So that’s the number one thing. Again, that’s not to spiritualize these things. But the bottom line is, we don’t start with us, we start with Him. We don’t tell God our plans and ask Him to bless it. We find out what His plan is, because that’s what He’s going to bless. So that’s the number one thing. Too many churches, too many leaders, they start with what they want to do, what their church wants to do, what the people want to do. And that may not even be in the realm of what God wants of them. No wonder they never build any momentum.

Number two, lack of communication. You’ve got to communicate. If you can’t learn to cast vision, if you can’t communicate with your key leads goals, outcomes, and how they can buy in and where they fit, then you never create momentum. Also, if you don’t communicate and recast the vision in the midst of the process, over and over again… We stood up every week and reminded people why we were doing worship life, for example. We stood up there. We stand up all the time. We remind people that the mission of First Baptist Church is to take the gospel across the street, across the states and across the seas, because every life matters. This is why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re always showing them why we’re doing this, because it fits into this. Whenever you don’t do that, you never start momentum or you destroy your momentum.

The other thing, Dwayne, that really is a big momentum killer is, you don’t get lots of people involved in the process. Pastors and church staff people are, even single… I’ve pastored small churches where there was a staff member and that was it. I was him. But you still created momentum because you go out and you enlist people and you equip people. And then you send them out to do the work and you trust them at the lowest level to make decisions and you hold them accountable. If you don’t get lots of people involved in the process, you’ll never build momentum and you’ll never sustain momentum.

It’s hard to start momentum. It’s easier to sustain it, unless you’re always putting barriers up to yourself. We’re our own worst enemy.

I think the other thing that stops momentum is, you don’t have a what comes next. You become event-minded. You think only in terms of this last six weeks. But if you’re going to do something this last six weeks, don’t waste people’s six weeks. You’ve got to figure out what’s next. What should be the outcome? How am I going to evaluate this? What are some measurable goals and immeasurable goals? If we do this, what’s it going to look like? What will the people look like? What will they do? What will they think? What will come next? And you’ve always got to think in terms of outcomes and what comes next.

Again, it starts with prayer. You’ve got to set goals. You’ve got to cast the vision. You’ve got to think in terms of outcomes. But you’ve got to have a next. When you don’t have a, what’s next, what’s beyond this, what’s this going to lead to, it’s going to build on, then you have destroyed your momentum.

Dwayne:

Okay. Great advice. One more question. How do you deal with discouragement and people who just are opposed to this? There’s always those people, right?

Clay:

Oh, yeah. But they’re everywhere. Dr. Bobby Welch, years ago, taught me a wonderful principle. Go with the goers. Just go with the goers. A lot of times, we’re like Elijah in the cave. And we’re saying, “Lord, I’m the only one. I’m the only one.” The Lord says, “What are you talking about? There’s a bunch of folks down there that’s never bowed their knee to Baal. They’re goers. They’re going. While you’re pouting, they’re going.” And a lot of leaders, we really make excuses, and we don’t give our ministry away. So we let a handful of people hold back the work of God. I believe with all my heart that I’m going to spend my time with the workers, not all my time with the whiners. They’re going to be out there. I have a simple philosophy about things, and it’s, we’re either going to, we’re going to have leaders that lead, or we’re going to have leaders that can leave. And that’s okay.

That’s okay. You’ve got to change your leaders or you have to change leaders. That’s what you have to do sometimes. The one thing that momentum does help, momentum helps overcome the critics.

Because, they can’t deny the effectiveness of the ministry. They may not like it. But the truth is, even people who may have gone along with them, you’ve helped put wins under their belts. They’ve seen the grandkids saved. They’ve seen their next door neighbor start coming to church. They’ve gotten involved in ministry for the first time. They’ve had, for the very first time in their life, they’ve started opening up a Bible every day and reading the Bible and it’s changing their life and changing their marriage.

So what happens is, there are always going to be critics. Just read the Bible. Jesus had critics everywhere. But he just kept going on loving people and encouraging people and ministering the people. And that’s what we’ve got to do in the church. When you’re the leader, you’re going to be criticized. When you’re a leader who leads a church like mine, that’s 178 years old, filled with traditions, there’s always going to be those people out there that don’t like it. Because, they like it the way Dr. So-and-so did it in 1950. I’m only the sixth pastor in a hundred years of this church. So the pastors have long, long tenures in this church, and they did it their way. I’ve still got a lot of people that think we ought to be doing it the way their former pastor did it in 1950s. Praise God for the way they did it in the 1950s, but those people don’t do anything at their house like happened in the 1950s . They don’t drive a 1950s car. They all like the Internet, and they like buying on Amazon. In an overnight FedEx world, the church can’t deliver the Gospel by Pony Express. We can’t do it.

We’ve just got to not worry about critics. They’re everywhere. God bless them, pray for them, work with them, love them. But spend most of the time with the goers. Go with the goers, because they’re the one that’s going to help you get to accomplish the vision that God’s given the church, and it’s going to make a difference.